What Is an Ionic Hair Brush?

Lindsay Pietroluongo

An ionic hairbrush is an appliance designed to help smooth and heal human hair. In most instances this tool looks like a standard hair brush, but its bristles emit ions that can interact with the molecular particles in hair. They usually need some kind of power source in order to function. Some require batteries, usually in the handle, while others take electricity. People who use these sorts of brushes typically do so every day, and many say that their hair looks healthier and styles better as a result. In theory, the ions emitted by the brushes should be able to close off the hair cuticles to lock in moisture and prevent environmental damage, but whether they actually do this is often an individual question. Different peoples’ hair responds differently, and there can also be differences according to brand and manufacturing mechanisms. There is usually a range of ionic hair products available at different price points and with different features. Making the best choice often requires a bit of research.

Ionic tools are used in most hair salons.
Ionic tools are used in most hair salons.

Understanding Ions

Most atoms and molecules start out with an equal number of protons and electrons — charged particulates that “float” and give the particulate energy. An ion is a molecule or an atom that has either lost or gained an electron, making the total count imbalanced. The main idea behind ionic hairbrushes is that the ions emitted by the brush can stabilize at least the surface of the hair. The ions emitted by an ionic hair brush react directly with damaged hair.

Ionic hair brushes emit negatively charged ions that break down the positively charged water molecules in wet hair.
Ionic hair brushes emit negatively charged ions that break down the positively charged water molecules in wet hair.

Taming Frizz and Fly-Aways

One of the biggest benefits of this tool is its potential to make hair smoother and less likely to become frizzy. Hair has a natural positive charge that causes the strands to repel each other, which commonly causes frizz and fly-away hairs. These problems tend to be exacerbated by certain environmental conditions like high air humidity. When the ions of an ionic hair brush react with repelling hair, the ions force the strands to lay straight alongside each other, usually from the root and cuticle to the very tips of each strand. Hair is typically is softer and has more volume shortly after treatment, and the results are supposed to last for hours if not all day.

Ionic hair brushes are designed to lock moisture into each strand of hair.
Ionic hair brushes are designed to lock moisture into each strand of hair.

Potential to Heal Damaged Hair

Some brush manufactures also claim that their products can heal damaged hair. Though a number of consumers say they feel their hair is repaired after using this sort of brush, there isn’t much research to back these claims. It isn’t usually possible to fully repair healthy hair, at least not with something as simple as an ion-charged brush. Healthy hair typically is a product of maintenance, the right hair products, and most importantly, a nutritious diet. Damaged hair can be made to look healthier, though, which is often what these brushes are able to achieve.

Dryers and Other Ionic Hair Tools

An ionic hair brush can be used in conjunction with an ionic blow dryer to maximize the appearance of healthy hair. Like ionic brushes, ionic dryers also emit charged ions. These ions break down the charged water molecules in wet hair. Once the water molecules are smaller, the hot air from the blow dryer can more easily penetrate the strands. Hair is then able to be dried more quickly, thereby cutting down on drying time and heat damage.

Where to Buy and What to Look For

Ionic tools are used in many hair salons, though in most places they’re also inexpensive enough to buy for home use. They are available in most beauty supply stores and even some general merchandise shops.

In most cases these brushes are easy to handle and are designed with the user in mind. An ionic hair brush will have both a strong grip and thick, sturdy bristles. Models with a high wattage typically are best for people with thick hair, whereas those with a lower wattage are designed for people with thin or fine locks. Most of the other details — size, price, and power supply — are more matters of personal taste and preference than quality. It’s often the case that the most expensive brushes are the best in terms of delivering consistent results, but not always. A lot depends on the nature of the hair and other factors like the overall environment and what if any products people use in their hair in between brushes.

Using an ionic hairbrush can help make hair shiny.
Using an ionic hairbrush can help make hair shiny.

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Discussion Comments


When something is negatively charged, it has more electrons, not less. Electrons have a negative charge so for a molecule to carry a negative charge, it has to have more electrons than protons. Protons carry positive charges so for a molecule to balance its charges and become neutral and thereby more stable, it will attract protons when it comes into contact with a positively charged molecule. Hair is typically slightly positive charged and slightly acidic so it will protonate or donate protons to a molecule that has a negative charge.


I have heard mixed reviews from friends who have used them. Like any hair care, some ionic brushes work better than others. I would recommend looking around pretty carefully before you buy one.


While I have never tried an ionic hair brush, I have very thick, curly hair that generally does not respond well to brushes of any kind. In fact, I currently don't own any hair brushes at all.

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